The Strathmore Spartans Sr. Girls' basketball team made school history last weekend when they became the first Spartans team to win provincials with a 75-45 victory over Strathcona Christian Academy. While there are several banners highlighting provincial wins for individual athletes like badminton and cross country, the Sr. Girls' basketball is the first team to take home the championship. Following the win, the Strathmore RCMP escorted the team back to the high school from town borders.
Head coach Dion Galandy said it was a full team effort to get them the win, but the team was led by some exceptionally hard-working and talented players in Grace Culshaw, Bailee Wathen, and Tessa Galandy. Culshaw and Wathen are both in grade 12, and Culshaw said winning it all and earning the ultimate prize was incredibly rewarding.
"It was very exciting, best moment of my life probably. That's all I really cared about was winning provincials," Culshaw said.
"It feels good, especially for being the first (Spartans) team to win provincials. You just feel like you're a celebrity walking around the hallway," Wathen added.
Tessa is also Coach Dion's daughter, so on top of the regular excitement of winning provincials she was even more hyped about getting to win with her dad.
"It was nice to have my dad as a coach, winning provincials with him was really special, not a lot of people have that experience," she said.
Tessa is in grade 11 so she plans on returning to the team next year. While repeating as provincial champions is a tall task, she hopes to lead by example next year as a grade 12 athlete and help instill that championship mentality.
"Obviously these two (Culshaw and Wathen) are going to be hard to replace, but the work ethic really did it for us, we could outperform teams on defense by pressing for the full 40 minutes... There's no other team that can keep up with that," she added.
As for Dion, he also plans on returning to coach the team, and said repeating will take a special group just like this year's team, as well as a lot of hard work for both new and returning players.
"What's important is that those Grade 10's and 11s and any grade 9s that are coming up, that they spend time in the offseason and improve their individual skills, that's what's really important coming into the season. During the season of play, you're not really improving individually. You improve as a team, but you've got to come into the next season more skilled than you were in the last season," he said.
This championship team entered many tournaments as the number one seed, which could often lead to overconfidence and complacency. However, Dion said this team was special in that they never stopped working and played together as a unit.
"They are not only skilled, but they were determined to improve on their skills throughout the season because they knew once your number one, you have a target on your back, and everyone wants to beat you. Therefore, they're going to keep improving to beat you, and if you don't keep improving as well, they might actually beat you," he said.
Even though the team will have several new faces and departing players, the returning veterans and championship work ethic they developed could propel them to great success next year as well.
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